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Poster: Fact_Checker Date: Sep 29, 2009 4:03pm
Forum: classic_tv Subject: Burns & Allen Show

Someone calling himself "Seto-Kaiba_Is_Stupid" wrote:

"Mind you, I do doubt that the majority of these 1950's broadcasts are legitimately under copyright. If they were, then wouldn't the dozens of unlicenced 'Burns and Allen' live episode releases result in CBS sending the same cease and desist that they've done to the filmed 'Amos and Andy'? Both 'Burns and Allen' and the music shows were broadcast live, without copyright notice, without copyright submission ..."

I don't think the live "Burns & Allen" shows are in the public domain. Sure, they weren't registered for copyright, but I don't think they had to be. As is often the case with network television programs which were never syndicated, they were never PUBLISHED insofar as copyright law is concerned. Without publication, there was no need for copyright notices, copyright registrations or other formalities. A small number of court decisions have been in accord with this view, most prominently (as far as I can tell) the case of the "Peter Pan" special on NBC. See:


If you're wondering about CBS not sending cease-and-desist orders, I presume it's that they're not the rights-holders now. My guess is that the producers or stars came to own the programs, if not from the beginning, then later on, when they renegotiated for the years when "Burns & Allen" was done on film. McCaddem Corp. is named as copyright proprietor in the Copyright Catalog for filmed episodes. Syndication of the film episodes have been handled by Screen Gems and Columbia Pictures Television -- not Viacom (as would have been the case with a CBS property).

"Seto-Kaiba_Is_Stupid" continued:
"Both 'Burns and Allen' and the music shows were broadcast live, without copyright notice, without copyright submission, and usually re-transmitted in smaller markets that didn't get the live transmission (which is the only reason any of them were kinescoped to begin with)."

If you're trying to get across the idea that the "Burns & Allen" live programs ended up "Published" through the kinescopes, check out the "Peter Pan" court decision. The court in that case took into consideration the argument that sending films to local stations for delayed broadcast amounted to publication, but the court rejected the argument.

The Copyright Catalog shows copyright registrations for the last few seasons of the Burns & Allen series, and the Film Superlist shows renewals on these. Be careful when looking them up: most episodes are alphabetized under "George Burns & Gracie Allen Show" (first letter: "G"), which is the title on screen on the programs themselves even if that's not what most people think of.

Incidental note: when "Seto-Kaiba_Is_Stupid" writes that the "smaller markets that didn't get the live transmission" of the programs "is the only reason any of them were kinescoped to begin with", he is wrong. The entire Pacific time zone got the shows via Kinescope. Let's not say that Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are small markets!!